Queerbaiting is Not a Weapon to Wield


It is hard for the majority of people to imagine that a famous person could have a life of their own, one that we are not – and have no right to be – a part of. Celebrities often seem like they are solely available for our own pleasure and entertainment, as if they only exist to accommodate us and our needs. This is partially because many celebrities keep their work lives completely separate from their personal lives, and as fans, it is our job to respect that and allow them to do so without pressing into their personal bubble until it threatens to pop. However, celebrities seem like robots to many of us, and it is hard to remember that they are real-life human beings who have emotions and problems of their own, even if they look nothing like ours. 


Disrupting and invading a celebrity’s personal life has been overly normalized and accepted as “how it is to be in the spotlight”; even being harassed by paparazzi, invasive interviewers, and accusations have quickly become part of the job description. But why is it seemingly so impossible to respect the privacy of our fellow human beings? Of course, we all have our idols, and of course, we want to know more about them, but where should the line be drawn? In the past few years there has been a steady rise in the number of people who identify as or consider themselves to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and this does not exclude celebrities. According to NBC News, at least 21 “famous people” came out as LGBTQ+ in 2021 alone, and we can be certain that there are many, many more. However, despite the increase of support surrounding this community, this does not mean that coming out has become any easier, especially for those in the spotlight.


On October 31, 2022, actor Kit Connor announced that he identifies as bisexual. However, according to him, the sharing of this news was not voluntary, and rather a result of having been continuously harassed with accusations of queerbaiting, a marketing technique used to attract a queer audience without actual queer characters or themes. The term “queerbaiting” has become widely used as a way to call out celebrities for behaving in a way that could be deemed as queer, without actually being a part of the community. While queerbaiting is harmful and unacceptable, so is accusing someone of doing so, especially when queerbaiting is a term that was never meant to be applied to real-life humans, but rather in regards to television and entertainment. Kit Connor, known for his role in Netflix’s Heartstopper, joins celebrities such as Harry Styles and Taylor Swift who have fallen to accusations of queerbaiting without having addressed their sexuality in the first place. 


This kind of accusation can be incredibly harmful and damaging for anyone, and although it has become more and more normalized to identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, this does not mean that we need to push full speed ahead in the opposite direction. Even with the growing increase of support, coming out does not become easier, and that fact should not be overlooked. For many, coming out has begun to feel more and more unnecessary, and there are many people who feel less inclined to select a label to identify with, some even feeling that they do not identify with a specific group at all. While others may feel the opposite, this does not mean that they will choose to come out immediately, even though it seems that the more we normalize being queer, the more we expect this to be the case. There are many reasons for someone to choose not to come out, and it is never our right to decide when someone’s time to make that decision is up. 


The term queerbaiting was coined to describe the way fiction and entertainment creators have used romantic and/or sexual tension between two same-sex characters without ever following through, and therefore, it is impossible for an individual to “queerbait” in real life. Whether it is a close friend, a stranger, or a celebrity, making an assumption about someone’s sexuality is insensitive and harmful, and absolutely none of our business. Deciding what or who someone identifies as based on who they are seen holding hands with, what they chose to wear, or simply the way they act, leaves no room for that person to make decisions of their own accord regarding coming out. Kit Connor’s choice to remain unlabelled was not queerbaiting, and neither was Harry Styles wearing a dress on the cover of Vogue.


A person should never feel as though they are required to come out or put a label on their identity, especially as the result of being accused of a marketing technique. Queerbaiting was never meant to apply to real-life individuals, and, in a twisted and tangled way, this is essentially going against the headway we have been making since the 1920s. We have gone from forcing members of the LGBTQ+ community to hide their identities, to forcing them to flaunt their identities – or else face accusations of “faking it”. This is no longer normalizing, or making any sort of progress, and is rather turning into the same toxicity we are working to demolish. In 2022, we reserve the right to love freely, which is something that was unimaginable for members of the LGBTQ+ community only 26 years ago. The continued inaccurate use of the term “queerbaiting” has shed a new, ugly light on the challenges we still face. Whether discussing celebrities or not, it is never our place to make assumptions regarding someone’s sexuality, and it is never our place to pressure them into acknowledging it. Being queer is not a trend, and neither is pressuring an individual to share a part of themselves that they have not chosen to share of their own accord.